US crew ponders 'shocking' end to America's Cup campaign

The sting of being the first team eliminated from the 36th America’s Cup is going to be with the New York Yacht Club’s American Magic for quite some time.

American Magic has had a week to process the end of its campaign, which was hastened when its yacht, Patriot, capsized and nearly sank during a race against Italy’s Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team in the challenger round-robins on Jan. 17 on New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf.

With help from the other competitors, American Magic got the yacht back to shore, patched a hole in the hull and rebuilt other components in the high-tech boat. Once it came out of the shed, Patriot was quickly ushered out of the competition, losing four straight races over two days to Luna Rossa in the Prada Cup semifinals.

Terry Hutchinson, American Magic’s skipper and executive director, said the 11 sailors aboard during the capsize will never get over the feeling of almost having the $5 million yacht sink underneath them.

“It was just shocking. We prepared for a lot of things but this we did not prepare for,” Hutchinson said from Auckland.

American Magic and the New York Yacht Club, which once held the America’s Cup for 132 years, must now wait for the regatta to play out before deciding if it will challenge for the 37th America’s Cup, whenever and wherever that might be.

Luna Rosa Prada Pirelli Team will face Sir Ben Ainslie’s INEOS Team UK in the best-of-13 Prada Cup final starting next Saturday, New Zealand time. The winner advances to face defending champion Emirates Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup match starting March 6.

One of the unique factors of the 170-year-old competition is that the winner gets to pick the location and type of boat to be used in the next defense. This America’s Cup is the first in the AC75, a fantastical-looking, 75-foot foiling monohull.

Hutchinson and other American Magic officials will remain in Auckland through the remainder of the competition in order to fulfill contractual obligations with sponsors.

“We’re evaluating, really. You have to wait for there to be a defender and you have to wait for there to be another Challenger of Record and you have to see what the playing field is going to be and how it’s going to be defined and really whether or not it’s going to be worth chasing that silver trophy,” Hutchinson said.

The NYYC has tried to drive a discussion about building in more certainty from cycle to cycle to reduce costs and allow more teams to compete.

Personally, Hutchinson said he would like to continue in the competition for the oldest trophy in international sports.

“It’d be rude not to,” he said. “You’ve come this far, and we’ve been fortunate to have been involved with some great teams and some great people and this team falls firmly in that category. The hard thing is we all know how we measure ourselves. The result is the result. That’s the brutal part about it.”

Hutchinson said the only thing the syndicate can do now is “lick your wounds and figure out what you did wrong and make the next one better.”

Helmed by New Zealander Dean Barker, Patriot capsized when it was hit by a gust of wind as it rounded a mark while holding a big lead over Luna Rossa.

Hutchinson said the team “beat on ourselves pretty hard” in doing a post-mortem about the capsize. “We’ve got some great sailors on the boat. Between the four that had the communication, we could have said, ‘Hey guys, we have a big lead here, let’s protect the asset.’ You’re going into the top mark at 40-some odd knots and the boat’s ripping along, the situation weather-wise was very dynamic.”

Hutchinson said the crew did the same maneuver on the leg before, around the right gate rather than the left gate, and had practiced it many times.

“It wasn’t something that was new for the first time. The only thing that was changing quickly was the weather," he said. "The wind speed was coming up and yet you make those decisions and you back yourself. That one bit us.”

Hutchinson said he felt American Magic still had a chance even after missing the final round-robins while the boat was being repaired.


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